Thursday, June 24, 2010

Correcting Accident-Caused Blindness

And why are people opposed to stem-cell research when these are the type of results of it?

These are the miracles scientific research strives for.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Equality Across the Board

One of the trainers who I often see when I work out at the gym is incredibly friendly. He is a very fit, buff black man, probably in his late thirties or forties. He always remembers you when you walk through the door, offers tips, and will chat up every and any one.
My gym clothes consist mainly of the ridiculous t-shirts I've accumulated through high school and college. From ballet and dance productions, sorority, LGBT and other free shirts.
The friendly trainer always reads my shirts, and usually makes some sort of comment. He'd previously noticed my "Gay? Fine by me" LGBT Bucknell shirt. He sort of nodded, I think not entirely sure what to make of it. Then today, I wore my Sorority Recruitment shirt all the staff and gamma-chi's wear: "No matter the letter, we're all Greek together." So the trainer approaches me, "All right. I just have to know. Are you an Equality across the board kind of girl? Because I remember your 'Gay' shirt. And someone nearby had asked me what I thought of it. And I had said that I thought there was nothing wrong with it, and that you have to know the person wearing it. And I thought of you as a sort of Equality Across the Board kind of person. Especially with your shirt now." (OR something along those lines.) He later commented how refreshing it was that I felt that way, because so many people nowadays were one-sided and and unaccepting.
I had, of course, replied that, Yes, I was an "Equality Across the Board" kind of person. That was exactly how I felt. We continued to chat for a little longer, but it really got me thinking about what I really did believe. And I came to the following conclusion.
I am an Equality Across the Board person. I truly, and deeply, believe that regardless of race, religion, age, sexual orientation, ethnicity, cultural and philosophical beliefs, we are all human. All children or souls of God, or Gods, or some higher spiritual being or pull, cosmic force, fate, ghosts, or even just luck, random chance or coincidence (whatever you so choose to believe or not believe in). But that we are all ultimately equal beings in an environment that consists of something above and beyond our one self. Even if it is only for one other person, be it lover, mother, cousin, pet. If it is only for close family and friends. For your neighbors. For your cultural identity. For your community. As long as a person is living and acting, breathing, loving, doing for anyone or anything above a personal, selfish gain.
And the only people I don't like are those that are self-righteous or intolerant and un-accepting. Anyone who thinks they are better than others because of their religious, cultural, ethnic, racial or other beliefs. Now, there is the "better" sense in smaller terms, of which, I am completely victim to and I feel is understandable and acceptable. Some people are smarter than others, they may have more knowledge, wisdom. Some people are more talented, in sports or arts. So they may be 'better' in one sense or form, but I do not think that anyone is better simply because of what they do/don't believe or worship in, because of race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation etc. Or deserve any more respect or virgins in heaven because of it.
I think a person's deeds, kindness, reactions and interactions with others affect the level of respect and/or 'holiness' of an individual. I feel a person's worth is far more based on their relationships with others. (Though I am not trying to belittle one's relationship with one's self. It should be healthy, of course, but I think that health is very much based on how one interacts with others.)
And those who are not tolerant of others for some reason or another. Tolerance is not an easy skill, I am well aware. It is something that has to be worked on. Everyone has their own prejudices, biases, and experiences that affect their tolerance and acceptance. So I realize that a person may not always be able to give complete acceptance and tolerance (I know that I do not), but one should always try to. And I do try. And I think most people do.
IT all goes back to: peace. love. hugs. and cake. Or as the guy at my gym says, "Equality Across the Board."

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Selective Claustrophobia

I have decided I suffer from Selective Claustrophobia, or Situational Claustrophobia if you will.
I can handle standing crammed against the elevator wall, a tall and/or large man or woman within inches of my face. I don't mind being shoved into the back or middle of a crowded elevator. Waiting in line, at any store or amusement park, you can get as close as you'd like (with the exception of being able to feel your breath down my neck or anywhere on my body). I totally understand the Bathroom lines too; I get as close as I can to the person in front of me, because it psychologically tells us we are that much closer to the bathroom stall. I get it.
The gym is another ball of wax, my friends. Gym = sweat, body heat, and smells. When there are many open, free ellipticals, do NOT choose the one right next to me. In literal terms, you may be farther away from me than were we in an elevator. But I am sweaty and smelly, and you are sweatier and smellier, and I do NOT need to be that close to you. I get short of breath, I notice I begin to cringe on the side of my body you're closest to. I feel uncomfortable, try to hold my breath, and totally throw off my work-out zone. You'd think people would apply the standard MALE URINAL rules...leave at least one urinal/treadmill between you and the person next to you, if not two or more. Which is why it becomes especially frustrating when men do it. Come on, you boys should know better! And don't pull the I'm-trying-to-be-as-close-to-you-as-possible-because-I-want-to-hit-on-you business. Hello! We are at a gym. I am sweaty and smelly. You are sweaty and smelly. While this could work in some fantasies, chances are YOU were not the hunky guy I had in mind. And we would not be on ellipticals.
This selective claustrophobia applies to other situations where it's hot and either party is sweaty and/or smelly. Sort of a "Hygenic Claustrophobia" in a way. Any smelly, sweaty or otherwise disgusting person can get too close and my 'claustrophobia' kicks in. But it's at its worst in the gym. The ultimate breeding pool for it.
And the BREATH claustrophobia. When I can feel someone's breath on me, oh, I lose it. I cringe, shudder, my heart races, and I want nothing more than to run madly away. I can't pay attention to what you're telling me. I can't help but scrunch my face and inch away. I don't care if your breath smells like fresh wintermint, sweet vanilla honeysuckle, or cinnamon rolls. I can feel it. That means it's smellable. That means you are too damn close! (Unless it's an intimate situation, however, and the breath is invited. However, in no other case should I ever feel your breath on me.)
I can't be the only other person like this? In fact, I really thought this was a sort of universal symptom. But I am beginning to see, more and more, that I may be one of few that suffers from Hygenic/Breath/Situational Claustrophobia.
Let's go back to bubbles, people. I have my bubble. You have yours. You stay in your bubble. And I will stay in mine. Kapeesh?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Marble Falls: Life is the Bubbles

I just spent the most spectacular weekend getaway in Marble Falls, which is just NW of Austin. I'd never heard of the place, but a friend asked me to accompany her for the holiday weekend (Memorial Day) to relax..and meet up with a guy she had randomly chance met on New Years. I'll share her story because I think it is one of those blissfully coincidental/fate type moments. I'll keep the names to "He" and "She" because beyond privacy, the names are inconsequential to the story.
She was staying with a friend and her friend's family who had a lakehouse. She had been up a few times before and always loved it. It was New Years Eve and she, her friend, friend's parents, and friend's grandmother went to a local vineyard for apertifs and lots of delicious vino. He was a waiter there, and though he only worked there occasionally because he was friendly with the manager, happened to work on the holiday. She noticed him. He noticed her. He also noticed the simple ring she wears on the ring finger of her left hand (she's single, the ring just holds a personal meaning). He can't decide whether she's married and surveys the entire waitstaff for opinions for mixed answers. Ultimately uncertain, he never approaches, Granny gets tired just before the clock strikes midnight and they had back to the lakehouse. She was supposed to leave the following day, but her friend's mother has to have an emergency appendectomy (which I ironically can relate to having the same experience on a holiday). While the friend and family are at the hospital, she stays to watch over the dogs at the lakehouse. They stay an extra day, and the friend needing to get out and about that evening takes her to the local bar for a few drinks. Though both He and She happened to be at the same bar all evening, they were (of course) on opposite sides and didn't see each other. It is only when her friend is dragging her out the door to go home that she runs into him. They finally approach, confirm her single status, bemoan the discovery she lives four hours away and is leaving tomorrow, exchange phone numbers, and a sweet, though one day late, New Years Eve kiss. For four months they would occasionally talk on the phone, but that remained the only contact. Though She tried to arrange weekends to visit it never coincided with her friend's schedule. She decides, with or without friend, to go up for Memorial Day. And, not wanting to brave what could be an awkward or unsettling reunion, randomly picks a friend she thinks would accompany her--me.
When she texted me about spending Memorial Day weekend in Marble Falls, I, of course, said yes. Though I realized after agreeing, I had no idea where the place was or what there was to even do there. But I was up for the adventure. (When am I not?) It will easily chalk up to the best road trip of my life, thus far.
The four hour ride up was beautiful (once we got off of I-10 and onto 71 W). We sang along to The Little Mermaid and appropriately chose our motto for the trip: Life is the Bubbles. We also rocked out to 80's music and Wicked. We arrived at the Hampton Inn, with lake view at about 4 in the afternoon. She informs Him and were immediately prompted to go to a local Springs. We hurriedly throw on our swimsuits and meet Him and his friend (nice, though slightly awkward and definitely not my type) in the parking lot when we're told to follow behind them for a ten-minute scenic drive.
The ten-minutes became a twenty minute, high speed drive down winding, curving back, dirt roads near farms and longhorns. I was convinced they were taking us out to shoot us, and because He was a mechanic would take apart our car for parts. But, we finally made it out alive to Krause Springs to meet up with another couple. Beautiful, thick Cypress trees, lush green moss and shrubs hide a natural Spring (complete with man-made rope swing). There were people everywhere, but it was easy to feel completely alone. Not feeling brave enough to try the rope swing, we were content to dangle our feet in the water (after having an impromptu mini-hiking session around the Springs, hopping from mossy rock to slippery branch and falling into knee-deep muddy water). Any initial awkwardness felt like it melted out of our feet and into the Springs and the rest of the afternoon was relaxed, comfortable and easy-going. We all got along well and it was easy to talk. We then headed back to make our 8pm reservations at the Winery (the one he worked at occasionally). I think it was called Flat Creek.
By the time we got back to the hotel, showered, changed, found our way to his apartment with the obnoxiously difficult directions he gave, and totally unnecessary considering how easy it really was to navigate, and followed behind his car (again, not quite understanding why he wasn't driving us), we were an hour late and had lost our table. The bottle of wine we had to tide us over while waiting for the table dissapated any frustrations, and before we all knew it we were sipping through the third bottle of wine and enjoying delicious shrimp and chicken rigatoni.
I was well into my seventh glass and well out of my sobriety, when I noticed the couple- Patrick and Charlotte- who were as lovely as you can get, were itching to leave. Not wanting to leave me as the third wheel, they stayed far beyond politeness and we continued to chit-chat. When we thought it was time to leave, He orders a fourth bottle and says Brady is coming. I have a nervous oh-no-please-don't-try-to-make-this-set-up-just-so-i-don't-feel-left-out-i'm-really-fine-with-my-bottle-of-wine-feeling, but Patrick and Charlotte almost light up at the mention of the name and precede to talk about him with this respectful, almost admiration of him. How he had planned this month long romantic tour of Europe with his girlfriend, who totally unexpectedly and horrible broke it off with him without real explanation, and he was now stuck with a two tickets and a romantic getaway with a guy friend. How he had run for City Council. How he was pretty much awesome.
When he finally arrived, it was almost like an light surrounded him, halo over his head. He was incredible good-looking, with an intoxicating smile and I knew we'd get along incredibly well. We talked nonstop, and to be honest, I don't remember most of what was said because by this point, I was easily into vino glass number 8 or 9 on very little food. By 2am, we decide it's time to head back. Though I knew there would be the 'good-bye' for her and him, I wasn't expecting my own. But it just happened. And it was wonderful. Even though I was still unsure whether he had initiated because he was being a good friend and didn't want me to feel left out, he readily agreed to meet up with us the next evening.
We spent the next day, just the two of us, relaxing by the Hampton Inn pool, over-looking the lake and enjoying the sun, good talk and dosing. We rejoined Patrick, Charlotte, Him, and the first friend I'd met for dinner at a nearby grill. Though there was a little more drama finally arranging a time and place for it, and my friend and I were (again) starving by the time we finally got to eat something, the good conversation and fun made up for it. I had begun to realize that I got along with these new friends better than I did with many of my friends from college, even many from high school. I wasn't as quiet or shy as I usually am with new people, was incredibly open, relaxed, and sharing my random humor and inside jokes with everyone. After dinner, we went to another friend's house, Jake's. He was leaving for a month long road trip and was throwing a 'send-off party' at his house. (And this time, we were able to snag a ride, so we didn't have to race down unfamiliar dirt roads at 70mph just to keep up with them in a little Mazda 6.)
Well, we ended up being the entire party and entered a dark, vacant backyard to find Jake and the rest of the 'party' nowhere to be found. Slowly, He got everything organized, arranged for beverages to come, we set up the ipod speakers, lit a fire, and everyone had a good time. We were having a good time even before it all came together, just sitting in the dark around an old table and deck chairs playing "Would You Rather" and talking about music. More people filed in, including Brady, and before you know it, everyone was chattering away. Then it was decided by popular vote, much excitement, and at least five slightly different renditions about the awesome-ness of THE CAVE, that we would all venture to THE CAVE. It was a Cave House, with boulders for doors, once-working electricity and plumbing, stalagmite shower heads, and a backyard with a boat dock onto a lake. I figured with all the hype there was no way it could surpass all the expectations, but it did. It was indescribably amazing.
We tracked through high, scratchy grass (and of course, again, we're not properly attired for this trekking in shorts and flip-flops), dark back roads and hills.
The best description I can give is the following. A man in the 80's, one of the pioneers of instigating the Computer revolution, was filthy rich. He found the entrance to a cave on his property, and excavated the entire vastness of it to create a sweet-ass party house, complete with a curving, stone and brick bar, multiple bathrooms, suites, various caverns and hallways, and a sick back-porch that overlooked the lake.
The moment I knew I'd met people I felt like I had known forever and was having the most spectacular time occurred when we were all entering the cave with Brady and his friend Dusty leading the way. Dusty asks if there are any movie buffs in the group, and we all decline, but prod him to just ask the question any way and we'll see if we can answer him. He says, "You know that 80's movie.....with the kids...." I immediately responded "THE GOONIES!" We were all on the same page and spent the rest of the evening quoting the movie, because that's exactly what the Cave House reminded us all of. We didn't find any treasure ships or have a Cyclops protect us from bad guys, but it was still nearly as exciting. Most everyone jumped into the lake off cliffs in the backyard, though me and my friend declined (not wearing appropriate undergarments), but it was still a blast. We finally headed back to the house, and I had to say goodbye to my new friends.
Brady and I had easily clicked and it was hard to say goodbye. It was even harder to decline his offer to go with him to Europe next week for twenty days. Had I known him for a little longer than two days, it'd be an easy YES. But the rational person in me knew I couldn't. Beyond being out of the country with a person I barely knew, there was that immediate level of intimacy that would happen in a stage where you should still be trying to impress someone, show them your best qualities, not your travel-living with-full bathroom exposure-foreign food stomach problems-and potentially stressful situations. I had no fears whether or not we'd get along or have fun, whether even if it wasn't romantic we'd have a great time anyways. It was all the other stuff...leaving my obligations in Houston, having to drop out of the show I was doing, etc, that I couldn't stomach.
I don't know if I'll see him again, though I think I will, and me and my friend have already begun planning our 4th of July Return. But even if I don't, I'll still always remember it as a wonderful weekend getaway. It was so nice to travel again. I haven't left Houston since New Years. And the weekend was a perfect escape to a beautiful city, with wonderful, fun people, and a million inside jokes to walk away with. I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world, and will gladly add it to my diary of travels.
In Marble Falls, life was the bubbles. And though I came back to reality and home, I'm still feeling the high of traveling. The high of meeting new people. Seeing new things. Having a wonderful time with unexpected happenings. In unexpected back-road locations. With unfamiliarity and unsureness and excitement. And memories. Lots and lots of them. Life is the bubbles.